Friday, February 18, 2011

Pre-post Post

Often after I watch a movie I'll look up an old Pauline Kael review of it to see what she had to say. Pauline, who once applied the term "schlocky romanticism" to Casablanca, pretty much hated everything except the original version of Lolita (which nobody else liked) and, surprisingly, the first two versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (She really dug the 1978 version: "Undiluted pleasure and excitement.") From 5001 Nights at the Movies, here is her review of the 1956 version of the film:

"A B-picture classic. This plain and inexpensive piece of science fiction employs few of the resources of the cinema (to put it mildly), but it has an idea that confirms everyone's suspicions. People are being turned into vegetables--and who can tell the difference? Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, who try to cling to their animality and individuality, seem inexplicably backward to the rest of the townspeople. Some of the best lines of dialogue are voice-overs--the chatter of the dehumanized. Directed by Don Siegel...with Carolyn Jones, Larry Gates, and Sam Peckinpah (who worked on the script) in a few bits. Based on a Collier's serial by Jack Finney."

RIP, Pauline.


  1. I personally love Kubrick's adaptation of Lolita. It differs vastly from Nabokov's (one of my favorite authors) novel, but it develops the story into a riveting black comedy that is classic Kubrick. To me, Kubrick always takes his source material and turns it into a Stanley Kubrick film--Lolita, A Clockwork Orange,The Shining, and Barry Lyndon being the best examples of this.

    2001: A Space Odyssey remains fascinating text for such discussions because the novel and the screenplay were written simultaneously, yet Clarke's novel explicates large portions of the narrative that Kubrick chooses to leave ambiguous. And it is precisely that ambiguity that will always make his film a more powerful and artistic sci-fi text than Clarke's novel, which is still a poetic and compelling examination of posthuman evolution.

  2. I liked Kubrick's Lolita, too, particularly because I love James Mason. Outside of the racy content, I've never really understood why it drew such viscerally negative reactions. While it certainly deviates from (and expands on) the novel quite a bit, I felt it was true to the essence of the characters as they were depicted in the novel.

    Barry Lyndon seems to be one of those flicks that people either love or they hate. I haven't seen it. In general, I run hot and cold with Kubrick. Dr. Strangelove, Clockwork, 2001, etc. are awesome, but I found Eyes Wide Shut intolerable. Half of Full Metal Jacket is good.

    Cassavetes is another director who tends to polarize audiences. I love The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, for example, but many people find it unwatchable and Cassavetes to be overly self-indulgent.

  3. I understand people's aversion to Cassevetes because the films are rather meandering to say the least, but he is another director that I adore. Killing of a Chinese Bookie is just phenomenal on every level to me.